JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville teenager on Thursday opened up about his vaping addiction, saying it got so severe, he had to be hospitalized.
A sixth person in the United States died from lung disease related to vaping, Kansas health officials said Tuesday. Locally, health officials said they've seen an increase in adolescents being injured from vaping.
"It's hard in adolescents because often they are vaping to fit in and be part of group," said Dr. Tina Catanzaro, pediatric pulmonary with Wolfson Children's Hospital. "Culturally that is something we need to look at."
Carey Smith is the lead asthma educator at Wolfson.
"As far as vaping issues, we have seen quite a few in the last six months, a trend upwards for adolescents coming in," she said.
Dallas Pantazi, a 17-year-old sophomore at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, said that's what happened to him. To make matters worse, he had preexisting asthma. Now, he's in the hospital with lung injuries due to vaping. He spent 24 hours in the pediatric intensive care unit.
According to his doctor, he has pneumomediastinum.
"So this is extra air that can trap into the neck and also the auxiliary tissue what might have been related to him coughing excessively, and having difficulty breathing," Catanzaro said.
While sitting up in a bed Thursday, Pantazi had a coughing fit.
Smith helped him through.
"Good, Dallas. You need to be coughing. That's good," she said.
Pantazi was hospitalized this week after feeling sick to his stomach and shortness of breath. He admits to vaping daily for three months.
"I came home one day. I walked into my older sister's room and she was vaping and she asked if I wanted to try it. I just didn't stop and I got addicted to it and didn't realize I was addicted to it until I was laying in the hospital bed and told I have holes in my lungs," explained Pantazi. "I was the cool kid because I vaped. But look at me now. I am in the hospital with holes in my lungs. That's not cool to me."
His mother said she was surprised.
"I didn't think he was Juuling at all. That was not something he was ever interested in," Deanna Pantazi said.
His father said he wants people to know how serious this is.
"First I would like them to know how serious it is. When you know how serious it is, you take it seriously. You don't blow it off, with kids being kids. I wish I would have known and I would have reacted differently. If I saw kids playing with guns, I would have said no, this stops instantly. We're going to have a sit-down and we're going to get through this. There's going to be no possibility. This is like playing with guns. I would not allow it. I would do something. I didn't know because I didn't know. I didn't react," Thom Pantazi said.
Pantazi said he is sharing his story in hopes of it starting a dialogue for other people to reach out for help. His health care team agreed.
"Make sure these students have the confidence to speak with their parents, caregivers about what's happening in their day to day environment and how it can impact them, to not do it -- it's that simple. When you have an asthma history, no matter what, even if your healthy, it is addictive behavior, once you start it's very hard," Smith said. "It's not you're going to do it one week and stop, it's that initial intake of the nicotine and the chemicals you're inhaling. You're instantly addicted."
As he works toward ending his addiction, Dallas is now being managed by the Community Asthma Partnership at Wolfson Children's Hospital.